Testifying before the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit on behalf of the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA), William J. Haener, executive vice president of natural gas for CMS Energy Corp., said that the interstate natural gas pipeline industry supports the development of a gas pipeline integrity rule but recommends longer time frames for inspection intervals. The congressional subcommittee is currently considering gas pipeline safety re-authorization legislation.

“We support the recent action taken by the Office of Pipeline Safety in releasing a notice of proposed rulemaking on the definition of ‘high consequence areas’ for the natural gas industry,” Haener said on Wednesday. “We look forward to the Office of Pipeline Safety issuing the proposed integrity rule in April or May. Our industry is committed to support the process toward finalizing a rule by this fall.”

In asking Congress to re-authorize the Pipeline Safety Act, which established the Office of Pipeline Safety within the U.S. Department of Transportation, Haener said, “Interstate natural gas pipelines are the safest mode of transportation today and have had minimal fatalities over the last two decades. Still, this safety record is not acceptable to us. We are committed to achieving our goal of zero failures. This is evidenced by our investments in construction and maintenance of facilities and training the people that operate them. In addition, we have spent more than $100 million over the last five years for research and development.”

Haener said that while INGAA and its member companies are committed to implementing a natural gas pipeline integrity rule, they are “concerned about suggestions that pipelines should be required to use specific methods and to accomplish inspections over unrealistic time frames, such as five years.”

He said a study by the world-renowned metallurgical research laboratory Battelle, commissioned by the Gas Technology Institute, supports a pipeline integrity re-verification inspection interval of 15 years. Another study — performed by Energy and Environmental Analysis Inc. and commissioned by the INGAA Foundation — also indicated the pitfalls of installing short inspection intervals. Haener said the study found that the unintended consumer and economic impacts of pipeline capacity shortfalls caused by short inspection intervals could cost consumers up to $17.85 billion due to fuel shortages, lost productivity and potential plant shutdowns.

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